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Avatar universal

Cause of Sudden Death r/t cardiac arrest

Regretfully, any advice or knowledge that I gain from this letter cannot help my father who passed away at age 52 less than two weeks ago.  I seek this information only in an attempt to "understand" what so unexpectedly happened to one of the most important and dearest persons in my life.  
My father had quadruple by-pass surgery in June of 1997.  His symptom prior to this surgery was simply decreased stamina.  He was very strong and very active and had a type A personality. After his stress test he as immediately admitted with surgery ensuing the next morning. He came through surgery with flying colors.  His surgeon said he had the heart muscle of a "young man" it was his clogged arteries that created his problems. One of his radial arteries was used along with the mammary arteries-this was supposed to be the most current and best technique.  He bounced back so quickly and was doing great.  He adhered to his low fat diet, had labs drawn to check lipid levels every 8 weeks, exercised every day and began to vacation more to reduce the heavy stress that running his own business frequently caused. After two years we were finally feeling really comfortable with the fact that he'd be okay for a long time.

Approximately three weeks ago he was complaining of not feeling well and also of chest pain.  He went to his physician and was told that "it is definetely not your heart.  No one has trouble only two years after surgery.  I just doesn't happen."  Based on this information he scheduled one of his routine trips to Florida where he enoyed taking trips on the ocean with my mother.  Here is where the trouble occurred. It is also important to mention that the 3-4 weeks prior (the same time he was complaining of chest pain) to his death he was under an immense amount of pressure r/t business matters.  This time period was probably one of the most stressful times we had seen him under.

On the day he died he had eaten a light breakfast and according to my mom "showed absolutely no signs of trouble" than morning.  She said he was feeling fine and so they headed out for Ft. Lauderdale.  They were about 7 miles out and the seas were fairly rough.  He noticed some water in the engine compartment of their yacht and immediately went below(two flights of stairs) to check it out while my mom steered. When he returned he was clearly concerned and quite stressed about the problem but said "everything is under control".  He sat in his captains chair and reared back with several jerky, seizure-like motions and his eyes were darting in all directions.  My mom said he never made eye contact, never spoke, just immediately went limp, quit breathing and was lifeless.  She dragged him to the floor and began CPR.  She said he was blue almost immediately.  It took the coast gaurd 30 minutes to reach them and defibrillate him and another 30 minutes to get him to shore. My mother never stoped CPR while awaiting help.  My dad never gained consciousness after that first initial moment when he was thrust back into that chair.  I know you cannot diagnose what happen but can you please offer me some idea?  Blood clot? Fatal arrythmia? Spasm?  What could have been so immediate and so fatal.  What possibly could have been done in those first initial minutes to have altered this fatal outcome? I am also curious to know what feelings a person might experience with a scenario like this?  Is it likely that one would be unaware of what was happening from the onset? Please give me some insight.  For some reason I feel that if I can better understand this I can gain some form of solace.  Please help me to understand.
5 Responses
238668 tn?1232735930
My condolences on the loss of your father.  What a terrible thing for your mother to have to go through.  Was an autopsy performed?  There are multiple possible explainations including massive stroke, heart attack or arrhythmia but it is impossible to know for sure without an autopsy.  Most of these are very difficult to predict and stress can definately play a role. Again my condolences and prayers in this difficult time.
Avatar universal
My sympathies to you on the loss of your father.  I lost my dad 6 months ago under similar circumstances.  The thing that has distressed my mom the most is the fact that once my dad went into distress but was still conscious, he never spoke to her.  He was able to walk with the aid of two people, but was unable to communicate.  I think it was a matter of about 7 minutes from the time he first collapsed until he died and didn't speak a word to her.  This has been very hard for her to understand.
Avatar universal
Dear Dawn and family,

I have lost many people in my family due to the heart. I have often wondered my self all these questions. I can only hope that someone can give you the answers you need. My family and my self will say a prayer for you and your family. God bless you and help you in your time of need
238668 tn?1232735930
Linda - it sounds like you dad had a stroke.  This is a classic presentation and often deadly.  My condolences to you and Sandy on your losses.
Avatar universal
Dawn,Linda and Sandy,

My condolenances to you and your families. Every night I pray to God for saving my husbands life and believe me, I do realize how lucky we are. He suffered cardiac arrest last year while playing softball. He is only 34 years old. The paramedics were on sight within 4 minutes and were able to defibrillate him back to life with the help of a few others who had performed the CPR until the ambulance arrived. With all of the testing he had done in the days after, they can not find a reason why this happened only that it was a fatal arrythmia. He has absolutely no heart damage and his arteries are completely clean which is the good news but it very concerning that the docotors can not figure out why it happened. He now has an implanted defibrillator (AICD) and it has actually saved his life again. He is now on a beta blocker and hasn't had any reoccurances in about 9 months. I thank God again for that.

I thought it might help your families to hear from a survivor of cardiac arrest. From all that I have read about it, if a victim is not defibrillated with 4-6 minutes, they will not survive regardless of CPR. (Unfortunately for some victims, this doesn't even help).The CPR helps prevent brain damage and is the life support system until the paramedics arrive, but if they are not there within minutes it can be fatal. Only 5% of cardiac arrrest victims survive. This is an alarming number but is getting a little better with the push of the importance of defibrillators.  If it helps at all, my husband does not remember anything at all and felt no pain. He only remembers trying to catch his breath because he was running and that was it. The first 5 days after the accident were all a blur. He remembers nothing at all from the accident, which they tell us is very common.

The second time he had cardiac arrest was this past February. We had just moved and he had been lifting heavy furniture and was out straight for a good 2 weeks which of course he said he could handle. Well, it did catch up with him physically and he ended up passing out in the shower. Once again, all he could remember was trying to catch his breath. I was in the bathroom at the time and he had fallen out of the shower into my arms. His eyes were wide open but he was shaking almost like having a seisure. His AICD went off and he sat right up like nothing happened. He does not remember falling or getting zapped.

The doctors have told us to stop trying to figure it all out because we will drive ourselfs crazy and in the beginning we were. We do know how very lucky we are and are so glad that my husband will be around to see our now two year old twin boys and our twelve year old son grow up. For us there are still no answers but we know by him having his AICD he is going to be around for a while. He actually feels great too, which is a blessing as well.

My heart goes out to all of you who have lost a loved one. I myself lost my father of a heart attack when I was 17. He was only 54. I hope I was able to shed a little light on a tragic
situation. Thanks
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